According to the World Bank, greenhouse gas emissions for the woefully traditional fashion industry are on track to increase by more than 50% by 2023. Amid such a dismal outlook, the possibility of a carbon border tax on brands looms large.
Many fashion brands want to evolve their ESG practices and be more sustainable, not just in fear of taxes but in the sincere desire to lessen their carbon impact. However, many have no idea how to start in an industry with such complex and long-established supply chains.
Digitalization holds a lot of the answers brands need, and in this article, we will discuss some realistic best practices to help you begin to reduce your CO2 output right now.
The challenges to fashion sustainability and how digitalization can help
Challenge 1: Complex supply chains lack carbon transparency
Mapping supply chains and auditing the behavior of suppliers is the first and most daunting step toward reducing your clothes' carbon footprint. Despite whatever ESG works you implement in-house, it is challenging to tell if those in your network are doing the same.
Add onto that a portion of accountability for the carbon emissions associated with shipping; an industry estimated to produce 2.5% of global CO2 emissions according to data from UKRI. This means that a piece of sustainably-produced clothing might not necessarily equal a reduced carbon footprint.
The Digital Solution: Supply chain mapping and digital swatches
Working with a third-party technology partner can help you identify the most carbon-heavy links in your supply chain and make the most urgently-needed changes first.
One example is using IoT sensors to track your fashion product from the source farm to factory, then to warehouses, and finally to the shelf. Each transaction can be recorded and verified transparently on a secure blockchain.
The resulting data would then allow you to optimize your shipping, cut out intermediaries lacking carbon transparency, and identify the lowest impact freight options. Also, sharing these metrics with other stakeholders can have a ripple effect throughout the supply chain, increasing its overall sustainability.
There are also ways to avoid shipping altogether. One of the services we at Frontier.cool offers enables mills and designers to search and select from digital fabric libraries housing thousands of individual swatches. This limits the need for shipping swatches back and forth for decision-making, reducing the associated environmental costs in the process. (Click here to learn more about how we can optimize your supply chain.)
Challenge 2: Excessive fabric waste
Brands are facing the reality that they need to take responsibility not just for the environmental impact of producing clothes but for the post-consumer waste that occurs after the sale. Some countries in Europe are even implementing extended producer responsibility schemes that make brands directly accountable for this waste.
The Digital Solution: Online prototyping and swatch-sharing
One way that brands can leverage current digital tools is to make the design and prototyping stages less fabric-intensive.
As a technology partner to fashion brands, Frontier.cool is the world's largest 3D fabric material network. Our database holds more than 40,000 digital fabrics from designers, garment vendors, textile manufacturers, and other ecosystem players. Designers can scan and upload a physical swatch and share it with collaborators in real-time for rapid digital prototyping, eliminating the need to create high numbers of physical swatches for review and redesign.
You might want to investigate whether you have a consumer group interested in buying your clothes for an online avatar to wear or to trade as an NFT (non-fungible token), thereby creating a new, more carbon-neutral revenue stream. Frontier. cool's scanning software enables the creation of this kind of digital asset.
Challenge 3: Ineffective impact measurements
The challenge of inaccurate impact metrics relates back to our first challenge in supply chain visibility. By relying on overly simplistic, top-down impact tracking, brands are sure to receive incorrect data and therefore implement ineffective solutions.
Brands need to avoid generalization, as two different pieces of clothing in the same line might have dramatically different impacts based on factors like the kinds of dyes used during production or the amount of water or energy consumption involved. This is not the kind of data that can be acquired through traditional, analog methods.
The Digital Solution: Data-based impact management
Digitalized impact management has the power to transform high-carbon supply chains into low-carbon value chains.
Frontier.cool has recently partnered with world-renowned impact measurement solution provider Made2Flow to integrate this service into our suite of digital solutions. As a result, we can now offer our customers material-level impact measurements such as personalized CO2 emissions, water consumption, and even land use — including benchmarks — at scale and in a trustworthy manner. Click here to read more about this groundbreaking partnership and our impact measurement services.
The path to becoming a carbon-neutral fashion brand might seem long and overwhelming, to the point of companies losing hope and doubling down on bad practices.
The good news is that the increasing ubiquity of technologies like IoT, AI, and blockchain makes it possible for those brands to take their first steps toward carbon neutrality without any considerable disruption to their business models or financial loss.
Ready to take your first step towards digitalization? Click here to schedule a demo with us.